Popular author Richelle E. Goodrich once implied that statistics mean everything to men and nothing to gods.
This piece is effectively a part 2 or a follow up to the Leaky Numbers article earlier to day that you can read here
That may have been true as despite some of these encouraging statistics which we Gunners worldwide should look to for hope of a brighter future, the footballing gods, shrugged, turned on the shower and heavily rained on our parade, preventing us from entering the Champions League, despite our enthralling and normal end of season form. These are the number Gooners worldwide can look at and have hope, there may be light at the end of the tunnel.
Granit Xhaka. A proper baller, and a hard man as well. Two things we have been missing in the middle of the park for a while now. He had trouble settling into the pace of the league, but once he got going boy did he get going. He made over 2,298 passes this season. A number which would make players who value the essence of the pass such as Xabi Alonso and Toni Kroos drool with envy. He had a topsy turvy season, but most of what was good about the season especially in the second half of it when he had acclimatized better came from that sweet left boot of his. He pings the ball about with ease, nonchalance and accuracy not seen in some years in North London.
One boon about the whole Xhaka situation is that he is only 24 and has some time to properly mature and adapt to the Premier League. His discipline is something he has clearly worked on if both halves of the season are taken separately and such ability to conform without losing his toughness and abilities looks to serve the club well in the near and hopefully long term future.
He has played in many countries, at the highest level, but this season, as the main man in the biggest club in North London (quiet down you 2nd place trophy winners) Alexis Sanchez has finally morphed into what Arsene Wenger always saw him to actually be; a potent goal scorer who could also facilitate for his teammates. He played a hand in 45 goals scored this season, bagging 30 himself and laying on another 15 for his teammates. The latter could have been higher but for profligate teammates, another topic for another day.
Alexis Sanchez played in varying roles at various points in the season, but his best position seems to be when he cuts in from the left wing on to his right boot which must have the same power of a punch by The Hulk and when he comes in from deep and can see players before him and set them up with eye catching, needle threading passes. It is paramount this man is paid whatever he requires this summer, and have a proper team built around him in what is shaping up to be Arsene Wenger’s swansong.
21 years, and the penny finally dropped. Ha! It took ages in what was turning into a dire season after the humiliating loss to a potentially weakened Bayern side, but Arsene finally was able to convince himself changing tact and breaking away from an overly offensive ideology for defensive stability isn’t entirely bad. Arsene for the first time in North London played a back 3. Gulp! It was scary when we first saw it in that first game against Middlesborough where we scraped through, but match after match, the players grew into the formation and tactical switch leading to a 90% win rate during the period of its use. The only sticking point is that this wasn’t utilized early in the season, as even bigger clubs such as Barcelona switched to this formation to provide defensive stability and even they have possibly the greatest attacking trident and can outscore almost anybody. Despite the benefits enjoyed from this switch, any new player brought on board should be versatile to play in another formation so as to give the club and manager some malleability In terms of mixing up tactics during the long grueling season.